Students push for inclusivity in future STEM buildings
The Santa Clara
November 2, 2017
The Sobrato Campus for Discovery and Innovation—aptly named for the $100 million gift donated by John A. and Susan Sobrato—lacks in one department, according to sophomore Jazmine Low: communal gender inclusive bathrooms.
The new science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) building coming to campus in 2021 will be a 300,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility dedicated to transformational STEM education.
In the plans for the new “campus within a campus,” there are single-use gender neutral bathrooms on each floor, in accordance with the Santa Clara building codes.
The problem Low identifies in these existing plans for gender neutral bathrooms is that they are “separate, off to the side, potentially inconvenient and seemingly hidden.”
Low and other allies of the LGBTQ+ community are pushing for a communal genderinclusive bathroom on the first floor, at least.
In mid-October, Low attended an architect town hall with information she prepared to state her argument.
She said her request was shut down “almost immediately” by key decision makers involved in the project, with the reasoning that the building plans were already set and could not be altered.
According to sophomore Alejandra Fraume, the complex’s architects won’t consider any collaboration or input without the university’s administration telling the architects to prioritize this issue.
“After the town hall, we asked the lead architect to take a look at our rendering and explore how our ideas could fit into the current layout, which he did graciously,” said Fraume in an email. “He then asked that we send the renderings to the project VP to be forwarded to the firm. It seemed like he was willing to explore different options.”
According to Fraume, the renderings were forwarded to the two main project contacts but were “blocked from proceeding because [the contacts] were unwilling to forward the rendering, despite the architect’s request.”
A project contact said the lead architect should not have committed to look at the draft, since architects “look to university leadership to understand what work to prioritize.”
The university has an obligation to be inclusive to those who idenitfy as trans, non-binary, gender-fluid and queer-allied, according to Fraume. Low agrees.
“It is the role of the school as a Jesuit institution to be socially innovative as well as technologically,” Low said.
Dr. Angel Islas, associate professor of biology, is a staff member in STEM who supports Low’s mission.
Islas emphasized that the push for neutral bathrooms is all about inclusion. This project is seen as a tangible way to show everyone belongs in STEM fields.
Associated Student Government (ASG) President Jack Herstam has brought up the possible installation of gender-neutral bathrooms in the future STEM building in past ASG Senate meetings this quarter. He cited summer of 2018 as the estimated start of construction for this project, whereas the actual start date of the complex is set for the beginning Oct. 2018.
Santa Clara currently hosts 22 unisex restrooms available for public use, located in buildings across campus from the de Saisset Museum to Facilities.
There are eight more on-campus restrooms reserved for residents and guests only, not including those available at Cowell Center.
Contact Meghan McLaughlin at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554- 4852